Pesto Brown Rice with Sautéed Swiss Chard (Vegan & GF) |

Pesto Brown Rice with Sautéed Greens

Pesto Brown Rice with Sautéed Swiss Chard (Vegan & GF) | #vegan #pesto #recipe

You know how you go into a weekend thinking you’re going to unwind, get some extra sleep, watch a movie, make your favorite pancakes for breakfast—just generally forget about the work stress of the previous months week…do you see where this is going?

Instead, you find yourself staring down a long backlog of to-dos, cleaning up dog pee, talking about finances and work stress, and trading in that movie to fight Lightroom to edit photos of food? Okay, so a few of those are kind of specific, but I’m betting you may be able to relate to feeling like you sometimes need a vacation from your weekend.

Pesto Brown Rice with Sautéed Swiss Chard (Vegan & GF) | #vegan #pesto #recipe

The Lightroom thing is annoying (can anyone tell me how to not make it take for-ev-er to preview photos before importing?). The dog pee thing, well, I tell the dogs it happens to the best of us. And the work stress, that has little to do with me, but I have a habit of taking on other people’s problems and trying to fix them. Seeing as how this blog, culinary school, and homemaking are my jobs right now, my “workdays” are pretty fantastic. I could do without the dog pee though.

Pesto Brown Rice with Sautéed Swiss Chard (Vegan & GF) | #vegan #pesto #recipe

I did have a nice unexpected win last week food-wise! It was Thursday evening and I’d already made the recipes I had planned, which meant our fridge was looking a little sparse, aside from a decent amount of basil (I somehow always have fresh herbs and no idea what to do with them). This time, though, I also had pine nuts. So, pesto! But I didn’t have pasta. So, brown rice! This is sort of how my brain works with recipes—I see an ingredient I want to use, and then scan our pantry like I’m putting together a puzzle. Sometimes it works, sometimes I’m the only one who will eat it.

This one worked, and was made even better atop a big bowl of sautéed Swiss chard. Give me all the greens! ← that might be my life motto.

Pesto Brown Rice with Sautéed Swiss Chard (Vegan & GF) | #vegan #pesto #recipe

So, when this weekend ended up being more draining than rejuvenating (productive, at least), I knew exactly which recipe I would make for dinner on Sunday and leftovers during the week.

Pesto Brown Rice with Sautéed Swiss Chard (Vegan & GF) | #vegan #pesto #recipe

This vegan pesto brown rice is creamy and comforting, but very light on the olive oil because I have a “thing” about tasting a lot of oil in my food. I added brightness with lemon juice and some cheesy flavor with nutritional yeast, and as with all good pesto, it’s sufficiently garlicky. It’s also really quick to come together:

Simmer rice, throw  pesto ingredients in food processor, pulse pulse pulse, sautée greens, plate + serve. Easy!

It’s fast, feel-good food.

Pesto Brown Rice with Sautéed Swiss Chard (Vegan & GF) | #vegan #pesto #recipe

Pesto Brown Rice with Sautéed Swiss Chard (Vegan & GF) | #vegan #pesto #recipe


Pesto Brown Rice with Sautéed Greens

Pesto Brown Rice with Sautéed Swiss Chard (Vegan & GF) |

Pesto Brown Rice with Sautéed Greens

Gluten Free, Vegan,

Serves: 6-8

Cook Time: 45 mins

A hearty and comforting alternative to pesto pasta, this brown rice dish is heavy on the greens, but light on the oil. It's also very quick to come together with minimal prep time, making it ideal for a busy weeknight.

Pesto Brown Rice with Sautéed Swiss Chard (Vegan & GF) |

Pesto Brown Rice with Sautéed Greens



For the rice:

  • 2 1/4 cups brown rice, rinsed and drained
  • 4 1/2 cups filtered water

For the pesto:

  • 4 ounces fresh basil
  • 3/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)

For the greens:

  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large bunches Swiss chard, stems removed and cut into bite-size pieces
  • pinch of sea salt

Cuisine: Gluten Free, Vegan Servings: 6-8

Cook Time: 45 mins

A hearty and comforting alternative to pesto pasta, this brown rice dish is heavy on the greens, but light on the oil. It's also very quick to come together with minimal prep time, making it ideal for a busy weeknight.


  • Add the brown rice and 4 1/2 cups of filtered water to a medium, uncovered pot over high heat and bring it to a rolling boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 45 minutes or until the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender.
  • While the rice is cooking, make the pesto. Combine the basil, pine nuts, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. With the food processor running, stream in the olive oil and lemon juice. Turn off the machine, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add in the nutritional yeast, salt and pepper. Pulse several times until everything is well combined. Taste and add more salt/pepper if necessary.
  • Ten minutes before the rice is done cooking, heat a large sautée pan over low-medium heat and add the 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Once heated, add the Swiss chard and pinch of sea salt, and stir to coat the greens in the oil. You can cover the pan for a minute or two to help steam the greens if you like. Continue to stir every so often until the chard is beginning to wilt, but is still bright green in color (about 2-3 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside while you prepare the pesto rice.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the brown rice and pesto. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  • Divide the sautéed Swiss chard among your serving dishes, then top with the pesto brown rice. Garnish with a fresh basil leaf and enjoy!

Notes [2]

Feel free to replace the pine nuts with walnuts, cashews, hemp seeds or almonds.

Replace the Swiss chard with kale, spinach, or collard greens.

Copyright © 2020 Amanda Maguire for Pickles & Honey

Leave a Comment

  1. i had a busy weekend so i am already ready for the im going to San Francisco 🙂 i could eat meals like these everyday. I am glad rice will be back to my life from tomorrow.

  2. Emma says

    I love pesto with rice…in fact I love pesto with anything!
    Sorry about the life stress and the dog pee. At least that’s something I don’t have to deal with 😉

  3. For some reason it hasn’t occurred to me to mix pesto with rice, but it looks lovely!

  4. Lee says
  5. Yeah I don’t like to taste oil in my food either. Love the idea of using brown rice. Robyn xx

    1. Amanda says

      Thanks, Robyn! <3

  6. Yum! I like your new motto. In Lightroom, I go straight to developing while the pics are still importing…or just flag the ones I want to edit as they come. Mine come across pretty quick? Humm….

  7. Rachael says

    This may actually happen in my kitchen. I haven’t made pesto yet but I also don’t like the oily texture of most pesto! I might try it with Quinoa… By the way I love your website:)

    1. Amanda says

      The pesto is great with quinoa too! Thank you for the sweet words about my blog. <3

  8. This is exactly the kind of post-long-flight jet-lagged nastiness meal I need! 🙂

    1. Amanda says

      I bet! Water and fresh fruits and veggies – a sure way to feel better!
      I hope the move is going well! xo

  9. Cadry says

    Sorry your weekend wasn’t as rejuvenating as you’d hoped! On the plus side, only a couple more days and you’ll get another chance.

    This recipe looks like something I’d really enjoy. I got hooked on pesto tossed with brown rice a couple of years ago, and it’s become one of my favorite springtime dishes. It’s full of so many possibilities with pesto adjustments and topping add-ins.

    1. Amanda says

      You’re right – it’s almost the weekend! Saturday will probably be crazy, but Sunday is looking to be a nice, relaxing day.

      I always thought I didn’t like pesto, but it turns out, I just don’t like the traditional, oily variety. I like to taste the bright basil and lemon, and of course, the nutritional yeast. It’s perfect for Spring, and so easy!

      1. Cadry says

        I totally agree. I add almost no oil at all to my pesto. Have you ever added a bit of miso paste to your pesto? I got hooked on it because of the cookbook Spork-Fed for its added richness, and now I can’t make pesto without it.

      2. Amanda says

        You know, I was considering adding some miso paste to my pesto next time – good to know you love it! I noticed in Isa Does It that she adds a little miso to quite a few recipes. I’m starting to think miso + cashews + nutritional yeast is this amazing savory recipe trifecta.

  10. Ashley says

    There is nothing better than a good pesto, imho. The taste of it instantly transports me to summer–we’re getting close!
    Also, the recipe looks great–I’ve never mixed pesto into rice but I can’t imagine how it could not be delicious 🙂

  11. Yum Amanda this looks so good! Really simple but packed with flavour. Loving your blog 🙂

  12. Leah says

    Delicious dish. Thank you so much for posting the recipe.

    What’s in a bunch? I found that two bunches of Swiss chard, as my grocery store defines them, wasn’t enough for the prescribed amount of rice and pesto or for 6-8 people. A bunch of Swiss chard at this particular store was between 6 and 8 leaves. With the appropriate amount of accompanying rice and pesto, it turned out to be a good amount for two people, maybe three not-so-hungry eaters, but not more than that. For those making it, I recommend using 35 to 50 Swiss chard leaves, perhaps more.

    It’s worth it. Really yummy.

    1. Amanda says

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the pesto and greens, Leah! The bunches of chard I used were very large (from Whole Foods) and probably had at least 15 large leaves each, so it sounds like yours were much smaller. I had no problem getting 6+ servings out of mine, but you bring up a good point. When in doubt, get more greens! 🙂

      1. Leah says

        Yeah! That sounds about right – 30 leaves would have done the job. And your rule of thumb is a good one: When in doubt, get more greens. Perfect.

  13. yuls says

    Loved the recipe!!! so yummy!!!
    BUT next time I make it I’d either make more pesto os LESS rice. xo

    1. Amanda says

      Glad you loved the recipe! My vote would be to make more pesto. Somehow, there’s never enough. 🙂


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